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The sound of money: How one ally used #AI tech to build a cash recognition app

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rimal-still-600x600.jpgThe problem? Nepalese paper currency does not have special marking, making it difficult for visually impaired people to distinguish the notes. Intel® Student Ambassador Kshitiz Rimal knew artificial intelligence (AI) could help.

Call it happenstance, call it destiny, but for Kshitiz Rimal all it took was a chance encounter to change everything.

“I was traveling on a public bus and sitting next to a blind person. I did not know him. When his bus stop came, he asked me to tell him about the value of the monetary notes he was holding.” After helping him, Kshitiz found out that the man had become blind after an accident and was struggling to identify monetary notes through touch. And he wasn’t the only one. It was a huge problem for visually impaired people throughout Nepal.

This led Kshitiz, a software and artificial intelligence (AI) developer and researcher, to come up with an idea for a cash recognition app using an Intel® AI DevCloud and Intel® Optimization for TensorFlow* framework.

How does it work?

It’s easy. All it takes is a smartphone with a camera. The user simply holds the phone over their monetary note and the app plays a sound signaling its value.

The best part? Kshitiz built the app to work without a WiFi connection – so no matter where the person is, they can count on it.

Everyone can be an ally

For Kshitiz, meeting a stranger on a bus was a life-changing experience. In addition to creating the app, he helped start a nonprofit organization called Artificial Intelligence for Development. Their mission? Developing open AI projects that help solve humanity’s greatest problems – including making the world more accessible for everyone.

That his work helps others, he says, is its own gift. “To be able to touch the lives of so many individuals and to be able to make a positive impact in their lives, I think it's the most precious reward you can get.”

Vision for the future

Rimal plans to continue applying AI for social good. He hopes to expand his app to other currencies, helping make daily monetary transactions easier for visually impaired people around the globe.

For National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we’re sharing how people with disabilities and their allies are helping make the world more inclusive. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for more stories.
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